Halvin and Cobbes: Profiting Sans Permission; the Review!

When you look back at your childhood, what do you see as a formative influence: your parents, teachers, coaches, friends, siblings, or unrelated mentors? Was your imagination an amorphous beast of ever-changing ideas and possibilities, or did you hone in on one train of thought and rode it until the end of the line?

The question implies you’ve left childhood behind you. Some of us, though we’re taxpayers and job-havers, have not. As a 26-year-old “adult,” I still harbor such a potent imagination. I go to bed with fluctuating story lines and intents flowing through my head. In all truth, I blame this on my main influence: a 6-year-old philosophical hooligan and his almost-Schroedingeresque tiger friend. That’s right; I was raised by Calvin & Hobbes.

Don’t get me wrong; my parents, teachers, etc. did a fine* job raising me. Luckily, both Calvin’s dad and mine shared several similarities. I often wonder if my dad would read the funnies before me just to get ideas on how to answer my childish curiosities that day. Despite knowing the science behind the mechanism, I still hold true that little men open the garage door.

Calvin (at least his eponymous strip) was born a mere 15 days before I was. And, like the spikey-haired (when not on the business end of an amateur barber tiger) rapscallion, I hold true that much me hasn’t aged. Maybe these similarities are strictly self-observed, but I’ve always felt a connection with a fictional character wise beyond his years and stupid for his age.

I had a Calvin & Hobbes shirt when I was younger with the two characters sharing a hug on the front. It was pink. The entire thing screamed “GIRL,” and it was still my favorite shirt. Not until adulthood did I find out that Bill Watterson, the hermit-like brilliance behind the comic, was strictly against merchandising his characters. Though there was one official C&H shirt made for the Museum of Modern Art, mine was not that.

Is that wrong? We see unlicensed material constantly around the internet. Many of us would snatch up merchandise featuring mash-ups of pop culture without blinking an eye at the legality or morality of the situation. But I feel there is a level of cheapness when it comes to some of this, and that’s where we get into the review.

A while back, my friend shot me a text with another friend in a t-shirt featuring the following image:

“Chewie and Han” by Zomboy

It was glorious. Star Wars combined with Calvin & Hobbes was a geek’s dream. The brash, intense human with a more level-headed and potentially violent, large, furry friend. Seemed like a stellar (pun suddenly intended) match.

And then the internet changed my mind.

PhotobucketThese are several other images you can attribute to Zomboy. I’m not sure if this is something that falls under copyright, but it definitely falls under both copywrong and copytoomuch.

From top to bottom, you have references to The Big Bang Theory, Batman, Entourage, and Ghostbusters. These are four images with the same exact layout, very similar faces, and pairings that make little to zero sense. There are several other “designs” by him that follow the exact same format, but you’ll pardon me for sparing you both the link to his store and the infuriating pictures.

My basis for thumbs up or down regarding these relates to the actual relationship of the characters this “artwork” of which it’s based. Also, don’t mind my constant use of quotes, but I guess the artist’s version of hitting ctrl+c and ctrl+v doesn’t exactly tickle my inner Picasso.

I’ve not watched much of The Big Bang Theory on account of Community being just fantastic and that I despise laugh tracks, but was Hobbes an annoying know-it-all and Calvin the one who gets the girl, or were those somewhat reversed in the comic? Did Robin ever get to drive the Batmobile, and wasn’t Calvin the superhero? Did Calvin’s Duplicator cause him to change appearances and sprout a douchey beard while turning Hobbes into two unappealing humans**? Why the hell is the ghost from the logo riding backseat with…I don’t even know which Ghosbuster that’s supposed to be.

The connections made in these and Zomboy’s other “work” don’t make sense to be as a Calvin & Hobbes fan, and that’s what I like about mash-ups. The fact that this person is charging $28.63 a shirt on Redbubble is maddening. Maybe the website takes a large cut. Maybe Zomboy should physically take a large cut with a broken piece of glass. Maybe that’s unfair of me to say and an extremely unbalanced reaction to someone who thought it would be cute to make twelve of these shirts. Maybe it’s unfair to Bill Watterson to make even one penny off bastardizing his work in a way that barely pays homage to the original. Maybe.

There are a few exceptions, as there are with any dislike (not a massive rap fan, but I do enjoy MC Frontalot…which, y’know, makes sense).


By Ninjaink (and via here), these two renditions offer some resemblance to C&H continuity, which is apparently good enough for someone as fired-up as me. The way the symbiote (yes, I know it’s not Venom, you fanboys) is pouncing Peter/Spider-Man akin to Hobbes jumping Calvin creates a geeksplosion that only the hardiest of Lysols could clean up. Similarly, the parallels between the clone saga and Calvin’s Duplicator is pretty darn neat and at least tries to make the two different universes connect to an extent (unlike a Calvin-Wayne driving the Garth-Hobbes mobile, an .jpg I shan’t link).

Ratings! Wheeeee!

Creativity: Little out of Much. The usage of an unlicensed Calvin is not uncommon. Anyone who’s driven behind a pickup truck can tell you that. It all differs on what Calvin is actually pissing on (and apparently who he’s actually pissing off). The idea of making money off property that isn’t inherently yours is even more routine. You have a glimpse for why I specifically chose unlicensed Calvin & Hobbes merchandise. Looking at both Zomboy’s cookie cutter concepts and Ninjaink’s relevant representations, they both violate the ideals of Mr. Watterson, and that lacks creativity when using others’ concepts for your own monetary benefit.

Price: No Thanks out of 5 Thanks. $28.63 for a t-shirt is too much. For any t-shirt. Ever. That print better be made of either gold or Reese’s Cups, because I’m not laying my wallet out for it otherwise.

Source: Stupendous! out of Tiger, Ferocity of! I love Calvin & Hobbes & the whole gang. You should, too.

So please, if you’re going to try and make money off someone else’s work, do it with some kind of originality tied in with the source. Otherwise, Get Rid of Stupid t-shirtS.


*Extremely debatable.
**I’ll be honest. Never watched Entourage. Never wanted to. Is “douchey” a proper adjective for the characters? Is it even more pertinent for the viewers? Aw…mean.


3 thoughts on “Halvin and Cobbes: Profiting Sans Permission; the Review!

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